I'm ready for the gym, now what?

Get to know the equipment, exercises and muscle groups

You are ready for your first gym session? No clue where to start? That's how everyone starts, most of us are not born to a house with a fully equipped gym in the basement.

The most important part is to show up, then to be curious and don't be afraid to ask and/or look silly, at one point everyone did the same.

You can find valuable information on this website: https://musclewiki.com/ 


Bodyweight: when you only use your own body, no additional weights. Think of push ups, pull ups, squats. Sounds easy? It sure is, if you are not overweight, otherwise your muscles won't be up to game.

Bands: great tools to do warm ups, stretching, working on mobility and even for complete workouts if you have a full set with stronger bands. Bands provide dynamic tension, you can adjust the intensity of every repetition by pulling harder, as the rubber will resist stronger as you pull.

Kettlebells: a big metal ball with a handle, usually going from 1-32kg-s, there are complete workouts with this one for all muscle groups, check a few videos, try it, if you like it, you can go a long way with them.

Dumbbells: a short bar with weights, one for each hand, similarly to kettlebells it's good for a complete workout, your left and right side works side by side, without helping each other, therefore if you have differences between the muscles of the two sides, you can choose different weights and intensity to get the lacking one up to speed.

Barbell: a long bar with plates, allows to use both sides of the body for a heavier lift. It is good for the big compound movements where you use multiple muscle groups at once. After finishing these great exercises you might want to use the other *bells to work a bit more on each muscle group in isolate to really tire them all.

Cable machines: same as bands, but with continuous tension with the selected weight and we are all about working the muscle under tension over time, that gives the intensity. With a *bell exercise you have a kind of resting position in between repetitions, that's reduced by cable machines, as even on the resting position you still have to hold the full weight. It also allows to work with much higher weights than bands, so you can step up your game over time.

Machines: these are isolating the muscle groups better by fixing the movement you can do, it allows to go heavy, you don't need to worry about stabilization, you won't need additional muscles to do stabilization work, which could lead to early failure in an exercise as usually these require smaller muscles than the one that you are targeting. Overall a great addition, but because they cut out the stabilization from the formula, you will want to add *bell exercises to add those back, as you are only as strong as your weakest muscle.

Muscle groups

Top to bottom. With their function in the most plain description.

Traps: between and around the neck and shoulders. Pulling your arms up.

Shoulders: lifting your arms upward.

Biceps: moving up your hand to your face.

Triceps: pushing your hand from your face outward.

Forearms: moving your hands and fingers.

Chest: moving your arms from the side to in front of you.

Lats (the big back muscles on the side): moving your arms from the front of you to the sides.

Abdominals: the 6-8 packs, doing the crunches for you, flexing the full body in non-upright positions to stay straight (during plank, pushup, leaning back for cable exercises etc.)

Lower back: moving your torso down to pick up something from the ground and back.

Glutes: moving your hips forward.

Quads: what you need to stand up from sitting or squating.

Hamstrings: the opposite of quads... sitting down faster?! 🙂

Calves: lifting your heels with your full body above it as well.


Traps: grabbing weights in your hands and pulling up your straight arms, moving your shoulders to your ears. Dumbbells are quite good for this, then if you are on advanced level you can use barbells for even more weight.

Shoulders: you can lift small dumbbells to the sides or a heavy barbell from your chest to above your head (shoulder press, military press, strict press).

Biceps: curls all the way with everything you can grab.

Triceps: single dumbbell overhead press, laying down dumbbell presses or my favorite the cable triceps press, pushing down on a bar in a bent-over position, as well as triceps kickbacks with small weights.

Forearms: usually bicep curls with grabbing the weight with overhand, so that your hands are facing downward. Or you can buy thick rubber handles to thicken any bar, that will work the forearms as you need a stronger grip for the exercise.

Chest: bench press, with barbells or dumbbells, preferably both after each other. Push ups are great if you can do them.

Lats: lateral pulldown on a machine and rowing with a machine are the best or pull ups on a bar if you have the strength or a machine that can offload some weight for you.

Abdominals: the easiest way to start is planks, if you get bored you can do push ups in the meantime or other walking around your hands while still maintaining the flexed straight body. You can also do lying leg raises. Then you can look for harder exercises.

Lower back: hyperextension "machine", which is more like a 45° bench, and romanian deadlifts are my choice for this one.

Glutes: squats, leg press.

Quads, hamstrings: squats, leg press, machines for leg extension and curls.

Calves: you can find a 10 cm height object to step on with half your leg off it, then raise yourself up and back down below the top of the object, stretching the calves downward. I like the standing machine for this one and occasionally the seated one.

Workout plan

When starting it is advised to do full body workouts twice a week, working all muscles in a session to raise your overall strength and to not put too much load on any of them at one time, as the body is not ready for such stress.

A working set is the one where you lift the weight that's have enough to require effort when doing 8-12 repetitions. From these you should be doing 1-2 sets in your first month for each muscle group, don't get crazy with 4-6 sets. However you can warm up and mess around to find that weight that you need for the working set, do 2-4 reps with a weight to see how hard it is and count that as warm up, not a working set.

After a few weeks you should increase the gym visits to 3 per week, then if you progress nicely you will need to go for a body split routine, eg. upper and lower body on different days. As is it recommended work on each muscle twice a week, this means you are up to 4 sessions per week. Then as you progress further you get to the 3-way split, like push-pull-legs, giving you 6 sessions per week and that's probably good for life.

You can try to find workout plans for beginners on the internet, there are plenty, but I challenge you to assemble your own, use the https://musclewiki.com/, pick a muscle group, choose a few exercises that look interesting for you, then go to the gym, mess with the weights and machines, figure out what's your working set, then start doing it, twice a week, 3 times a week, increasing the weights weekly. 💪

If you need help, book your free appointment and let's discuss your goals and come up with a plan.

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